The Corner


Big Plays, Big Players

Darius ‘Big Play’ Slay of the Detroit Lions, at Ford Field in Detroit in 2016 (Raj Mehta / USA TODAY Sports)

My Impromptus today begins with generals — specifically, two U.S. Army generals who are associated with South Korea. One has just left his command there; the other has just taken over. The one who has just taken over, by the way, is the son of the man after whom the tank is named — the Abrams tank, I mean.

In this column, I also discuss Saudi Arabia and other matters, grave and light. One of the graver matters is football, specifically the Michigan–Ohio State game two days ago.

Somewhere in the mix, I talk about Darius Slay — “Big Play” Slay — a cornerback for the Detroit Lions. Recently, he was marvelously candid about race, and expectations about race.

Speaking of which, I would like to add another item here in the Corner. Earlier this month, the New York Times published an obit of Ron Johnson, the great running back. He was our first black captain, by which I mean the first black captain of the University of Michigan football team. That was in 1968. Later, he played for the New York Giants.

The Times quoted Johnson as saying, “When I got to New York, the running backs were Tucker Frederickson and Ernie Koy. They were two white, big fullback-type guys. Everyone assumed that if you were black, you were fast. The Giants never really had anybody like that. So I was very, very well received when I got to New York.”

There is a world of sociology, and psychology, in all this. At any rate, Ron Johnson did my hometown of Ann Arbor proud, and New York City too, and beyond.

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